Ka Boom! Bush Directly Complicit In Prosecutor Purges

Brian Zick

The Ghost of the Unindicted Co-Conspirator can be heard rattling his chains.David Johnston and Eric Lipton for the NY Times: The White House was deeply involved in the decision late last year to dismiss federal prosecutors, including some who had been criticized by Republican lawmakers, administration officials said Monday.Last October, President Bush spoke with Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales to pass along concerns by Republicans that some prosecutors were not aggressively addressing voter fraud, the White House said Monday. Senator Pete V. Domenici, Republican of New Mexico, was among the politicians who complained directly to the president, according to an administration official. (…) The role of the president and his advisers in the prosecutor shakeup is likely to intensify calls by Congress for an investigation. It is the worst crisis of Mr. Gonzales’s tenure and provoked charges that the dismissals were a political purge threatening the historical independence of the Justice Department.The idea of dismissing federal prosecutors originated in the White House more than a year earlier, White House and Justice officials said Monday. Dan Eggen and John Solomon for WaPo: The White House suggested two years ago that the Justice Department fire all 93 U.S. attorneys, a proposal that eventually resulted in the dismissals of eight prosecutors last year, according to e-mails and internal documents that the administration will provide to Congress today. (…) Gonzales approved the idea of firing a smaller group of U.S. attorneys shortly after taking office in February 2005. The aide in charge of the dismissals -- his chief of staff, D. Kyle Sampson -- resigned yesterday, officials said, after acknowledging that he did not tell key Justice officials about the extent of his communications with the White House, leading them to provide incomplete information to Congress. And this is what might charitably be called "an understatement": Administration officials say they are braced for a new round of criticism today from lawmakers who may feel misled by recent testimony from Gonzales, Deputy Attorney General Paul J. McNulty and William E. Moschella, principal associate deputy attorney general. Several Democrats have called in recent days for Gonzales to resign. Can you say "perjury"? I knew you could. And can you also say "conspiracy to obstruct justice"? Sampson also strongly urged bypassing Congress in naming replacements, using a little-known power slipped into the renewal of the USA Patriot Act in March 2006 that allows the attorney general to name interim replacements without Senate confirmation. (…) E-mails show that Justice officials discussed bypassing the two Democratic senators in Arkansas, who normally would have had input into the appointment, as early as last August. By mid-December, Sampson was suggesting that Gonzales exercise his newfound appointment authority to put Griffin in place until the end of Bush's term."f we don't ever exercise it then what's the point of having it?" Sampson wrote to a White House aide. Josh Marshall calls rather significant attention to this: There's a sub-issue emerging in the canned US Attorneys scandal: the apparently central role of Republican claims of voter fraud and prosecutors unwillingness to bring indictments emerging from such alleged wrongdoing. (…) The very short version of this story is that Republicans habitually make claims about voter fraud. But the charges are almost invariably bogus. And in most if not every case the claims are little more than stalking horses for voter suppression efforts. (…) Why didn't the prosecutors pursue indictments when GOP operatives started yakking about voter fraud? Almost certainly because there just wasn't any evidence for it.

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